Because of the Shame (I associate with Vulnerability)

LJGI bought “Tranny” on Audible about a month ago, but did not rush to listen to it, and only put it on in my car as I made the drive north from south Florida back to the Atlanta area early this week.  I knew Laura Jane Grace (LJG) fronted Against Me, and that she had transitioned a few years ago.  I’ve never been one to pile on bandwagons, and so as my daughter transitioned…and then as I began to transition myself, I was damned if I was going to be the cliche trans person following a band just because the front woman was transgender.  However, as I began to dig into her book, I began to find that much of our thought processes were identical or ran parallel to one another, and that just drew me into wanting to check out her music.  So this past weekend that is just what I did, downloading all her albums on Spotify and…my love affair with LJG and Against Me began.

I’ve always been a fan of thrashing rock, punk, classic rock, and I could go on.  Nothing gets me going for competition or workouts than hard driving bass, drums, and electric guitars.  I was immediately taken with the songwriting abilities of LJG.  I’ve always been a sucker for good lyrics.  They matter to me, and as I listened to her lyrics I became even more hooked on her music.

Let me step back a second, and say the last two weeks have been eventful ones.  Last week was a goodbye of sorts.    One thing is certain from every transwoman I’ve ever talked to and that is this…HRT will fundamentally change the way I see and interact with the world.  Estrogen will change my brain, and so I spent last week quietly saying goodbye to certain things, happy to do so, but a little sad as well.  I admit, there were some tears shed on my part as I realized this version of me will never see my parents or brother again, but it is how it has to be, and I have faith that when the time comes they will accept, love, and support me.

Getting home, my wife and I had a good talk.  She shared her fears and concerns regarding intimacy, and while I assured her I still found her attractive, the unasked question is, “what will she think of me as my body and mind start to change.  Will she find me attractive?  We don’t have those answers, but we agreed to try and move forward.  We don’t know how things will turn out, but we love each other, and we will see if, in the end, that is enough.

Much bigger, I’ve realized that I’ve left my self-hatred and anger behind.  They no longer rules me, and I shared that in therapy this week.  The blowup between the wife and I last week was a major turning point for me and my transition…an important, positive one that has seen me begin to reconnect with my family…who I was so close to losing…and if that had happened I would have lost everything I hold dear.

So where did my self hate and anger come from?  I was angry and hated myself because I couldn’t be me.  I was angry I had to hide the female me, and hated myself for being a coward.   Finally, I realized that through various obsessions I had made myself numb to so much emotion.  With the self-hatred and anger gone, my emotions have begun to emerge, and while I’m more prone to tears these days, I am happy that this is the case. Up until today, it had been over 22 years since I had last sobbed about anything.

The trigger?  Well, my emotions were already raw, and it had been building, but it was an Against Me song which set me free.  I had been listening to “Tranny” earlier today, and there is a part where LJG talks about her friend and former lover CC being killed, and while attending the funeral CC’s mother tells her to make it right.  At the time LJG still wasn’t out.  The story was sad, but I didn’t think too much about it while listening to the story.  It wasn’t until I was deep into my workout listening to Against Me when “Because of the Shame” comes on (lyric version video is my Video of the Day).

I was doing my ab workout, and in the middle of it, I realize that the song was written about CC, but more importantly it was also written about LJG’s shame at the idea of showing vulnerability.  It was a shame I knew all too well, a shame that has kept me living a lie for so long, and a shame that I am through with.  Still, as I listened to the words, I sat up and began to cry.  I couldn’t help myself, but the tears were not my usual weak tears that I could push down and gain control over.  This time, they just kept coming, and I simply let go and sobbed.  The song hits me on such a visceral level, and even now as I think of it, I’m fighting back the urge to cry.  I’ve hated who I am for so long, hated how I held such rigid control over what I allowed the world to see, including those I love.  Even now, as I find my happy, because I have let go of that rigid control, there still exists a residual sadness for time and incidents that I can never make up, and that I can never get back.  Laura and her song will forever hold a significant place in my transition, and emotional development, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

I am old enough to know, LJG will never read this, never know just how much that song, her words, mean to this 42 year old woman just beginning her transition, but I think it connects because I know, without a doubt, that the shame she felt mirrors my own regarding what we both pushed down and denied for so long, before moving past it to find our real selves.

Looking at this week so far, it has been a week of turning corners.  Monday I found out that I will get my HRT letter at my next therapy session, and I also confirmed yesterday that in all liklihood I will be able to start HRT that same week…meaning in less than two weeks I will finally be on the physical road to aligning my body with my mind.

My wife is talking more about my transition in, if not a positive light, then definitely not a negative one.  She has noticed I am engaged more, and more involved in the household…I am simply more there.  And, finally, after my workout today, I shaved off my beard for the first time in eight years, and for what I know will be the last time.

I am finally getting excited for my future, and feeling more at peace than I think I have ever been before in my life.  I have left behind my self-hate, anger, and my shame.  In their place I have found freedom, contentment, and a peace that I hope to keep a hold of as I move forward with my life.  I no longer have to be ashamed, because there is nothing shameful about living my real truth.

Love is Wondrous

sunset-hands-love-womanThe past week has seen many up and downs for me, and as I’ve said to many people, things have gotten very real.

As I came out, got to know other girls via social media, and received massive support from those I shared with, I was buoyed up and not forced to face many realities that stand before me.  In many ways this is as it should be.  If I had to look at all that stands before me I might run to the corner, hide, and never come out.  It is best to plan ahead, but you should also take each day at a time, and adjust as necessary to what is thrown your way.Last Friday was a mix of good and while I won’t say bad, I will say starkly real.

I decided on Friday to come out to a group of “Parents of Transgender Kids” that I am a part of.  I used to be very active in the group, and regularly wrote a blog as the “father” of a transgender daughter.  I was confident that it would be an affirming group to come out to, but I had no idea just how positive my news would be received, and to say I was overwhelmed by the positivity and support shown me would be an understatement.  I am even happy to admit that there were some happy tears shed as I read messages left for me.  When I wrote my announcement, I vowed to respond in some way to everyone who reached out to me, and it took me over two hours to do so, and I was happy to do it.  To those of you who posted and read this…thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Things like your messages give me armor for when times get tough, or when I get low.  You all have a special place in my heart, and I will always remember and be thankful for your support.

To the women who readily accept my female self and have reached out on social media, and to the local women who have extended hands of friendship, let me say thank you!  Your acceptance, and friendship means so much, and I can’t wait to begin to get to know all of you, and let you get to know me.

However, love isn’t always sunshine and roses, sometimes it is about being real with the ones you love, and so I want to talk about what else happened on Friday.  I’ve talked before about how my anger was a big reason I sought therapy and knew I had to come out as transgender.  I had known my wife was not happy with me, but wrongly assumed it had to do with emotions she was feeling from me telling her I was transgender.  I was right about her anger, but very wrong as to the reason.  At around the time I decided to seek therapy I had begun to lash out at everyone in my house, my wife, my kids, no one was safe from my short fuse.  I had gotten so bad that my wife was a hair’s breadth away from taking the kids and leaving me.  Fighting back tears, she shared this with me Friday night, after I started to get angry for something else she had told me.  As I listened, I found the anger falling away, only to be replaced by a profound sadness, and then she broke down about my trans status.

My heart broke as she began to break down in wracking sobs.  I dropped to the floor, back against the wall, as her words hit me, and I just listened.  She had turned the corner to accepting that this was happening, but this is not a joyous thing for her.  She is losing her husband, and it breaks my heart that as I move forward, she will suffer in many ways for it.  This is not uncommon for those of us that want to keep our families intact, and it highlights one of the many difficulties of transitioning later in life.  The silver lining in it all is that her sharing has allowed us to move forward and now actually have real conversations about my transition.  I no longer feel like I can’t share, or that she doesn’t want to hear it, but I also accept that none of this will be easy for her.

Her big fear, as is the case for many spouses, is that I am moving too fast…however, what many do not understand is that I’ve fought this for decades.  There is no such thing as moving too fast at my age, but for her, and because I was so good at lying to the world, it seems like an overnight happening.  I assured her that this would not happen overnight, and that I was looking at what I thought would be a minimum of two years before a final end result.  I don’t know if it made her feel better, but it did put her more at ease.  We both cannot say if we will be together when this is all over.  Perhaps we will, and perhaps we will not, but even she is certain that no matter what we will always be close friends and remain in each others’ lives.  Things will happen as they will, and we will adjust as the changes in our relationship dictate.  It saddens me to think she may not always be my spouse.  I have been married to this wonderful woman for over 18 years.  People are always telling me how brave and courageous I am, but in my eyes, she is the brave and courageous one.  She is choosing to support and stand by me as I slowly kill her husband, and replace him with Allie.  To be able to stand by and watch that…well, I’m on the verge of tears just writing this.

As for being on the verge of tears?  I am currently down in Florida visiting my parents, and completely in stealth mode.  They have been unbelievably affirming of my daughter, and I believe they will support me, but it has been a trying time for me as they keep bringing up trans issues, and every time they do, I want to say “I have something I need to tell you.”  I don’t tell them, and won’t yet, but it’s hard keeping such a big secret from them.  However, it’s the right thing to do, but it is also something I will talk about in therapy again next week, as I think about the “how to” of eventually telling them.

I find myself, as of late, walking through life as if I am a person who has just been given a death sentence, or told she has only months to live.  Every time I experience something, I can’t help think, this might be the last time I do this as a “man”, or this will be the last time I do this before hormones change how I see the world.  So many girls tell me how HRT will change the way I see and experience the world, so while I will continue to present male at work, and for some time out of the house, my brain will change much more quickly, as testosterone gets blocked, and estrogen takes over.  Once that happens, regardless of how my body looks, I will cease to be the person I am right now.  Even excited and looking forward to HRT this is a heavy thing for me to face.  These thoughts, make the past few days bittersweet for me.  I look forward to the future, but have a sorrow for the would-be man I am putting to rest with the knowledge that it will hurt many who love that person.  I can only hope that they will see the heart of that man is the woman I really am, and that it was my love and fear of hurting others that made me wait so long to share my deepest secret with them.

Love can be joyous, and love can be sadness, but through it all, love is wondrous.  

I do not doubt this, and it gives me hope that others will accept and in turn show me compassion and love in return.  I hold onto this as I move forward, and will do my best to constantly remind myself of it in the darkest of moments during transition.  As long as there are people who think positively of me and there are those who love me, I will never be alone and will find a way to keep moving forward.

Female Voice…Help?

female-voiceOk, be gentle with me…Seriously, I want honesty.  I’m early in training my voice, and I know it can get much better, but this is the first recording where I’ve gotten out of chest and into throat which I’ve been practicing for a few days now.  This isn’t the best I’ve done, and the recording is kinda grainy, but the question is does it sound female or like a dude doing a female voice.  My natural male voice is down around 116 hertz…this voice is more around 200 hertz (when throat feels good I’ve averaged 216, but also I’ve dropped to 180, all in female range), although it does go up and down.  I don’t need a high voice, I’m tall, and I”m guessing will always appear to be a larger female athlete, so I’m good with that.  I want the voice to fit my body, and sound natural for me.

I know I have to work on prosody, inflection, etc.  Those things only come with practice and use.  My voice is one of my biggest dysphoria triggers, and so my first instinct is to go and get voice surgery so I don’t need to worry about it, but I need to try this first, and even with surgery I would need to train my voice, so this would have to happen anyways.  My point is, it is impossible for me to be objective about how my voice sounds because I naturally cringe anyways.

If you are coming here from Twitter feel free to DM me, post in the comments for the link.  You can also always post in the comments for this post.  If you are finding your way here from elsewhere, I’m also open to your thoughts.  I don’t get offended by honesty, it helps me to improve.  For right now, my concern is:  Is the pitch high enough to pass female on the phone, or will people think it’s a dude pretending.

Thanks for your thoughts, and I will probably do this at least once a month to try and track progress.

So here it is:

Emotions on the Edge

68cee0299574cc2fa9a3e5e3f9ec08c4As I move forward with my transition, I begin to realize I am changing in ways that are, at the same time, both scary and positive.  These days my emotions seem to constantly bubble right beneath the surface, and I find that while I still can present a very male mask, much of what is beneath the surface is the real me, the female, pulling the strings.

I find the fact that the real me is beginning to emerge an exciting time, but with every step forward there is no going back, to go back would mean oblivion, and yet no matter how confident I seem, there is always a fear of the unknown, because you can never know for sure how people will eventually react to you.  Other women have told me that they are amazed at how I can pace myself and take my time when all they want to do is run.  I’ve thought about what they’ve said, and want to clue them in to the fact that a huge part of me wants to run as well.  I just know that isn’t the path meant for me and my transition.

I want to wear the fun stuff, dresses, shoes, fun tights, nail polish on my fingers, and make-up on my face.  However, I am also in my early forties, and have a family, a good job, etc., and so there is a way in which I must go about my transition in order to maintain as much of what I have and want as possible.  I accept I may lose things, but I won’t give them up without a fight, and I will try and move forward with as much positivity  as possible.  Good people gravitate towards positive, and unconsciously want to share in it.  If I want people to accept Allie, then I have to show them that Allie is a person they want around them, that Allie is someone they want working for them, and that Allie is a friend and family member who makes life better.

I keep sticking to my “Two years on HRT plan.”  What that means, is I want to be on HRT for two years before I decide what’s next, but I may hedge at the year mark and schedule gender confirmation surgery (GCS) if I feel the changes happening are good enough that I can wait on any other surgeries I might want.  I won’t know what other surgeries I’d want until the 2 year mark anyways.  The only surgery I know I want for sure is GCS.  OK, and a nose job, and some liposculpting…I have this fat on my inner thighs that I had even as an athlete, and it just won’t go away…but I digress…The point is I don’t have hang-ups about my face, and hope I never do…for me it is body and voice…those are my biggest triggers.  As for genitals…I don’t hate my penis, but I don’t love it either.  I do hate my testicles…they’re just…in the way…all the time…and I will be happy to see them shrink, and eventually removed.

Another benefit of my two year plan is that it gives those I love and care about a chance to begin to see changes, to share why those changes are occurring, and to let them get used to those changes before the biggest change of all…stepping out of the man suit and leaving it behind for good.  If HRT brings about a second puberty then all those things cis gals learn during puberty, I will have two years to learn.  I talked about it in therapy yesterday, and I do mean that.  I’m not a woman yet…because girls go through puberty to become women, and I have yet to go through mine.  Not all will agree with me, but that’s how I see my transition, and mine doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s.

Being a woman isn’t putting on make-up and a pretty dress.  I am female, but I need to learn how to present and navigate the world as a woman.  I need to get used to my body as it changes, and also get used to how people will begin to see and perceive me.  I need to learn how do do my hair, my make-up, and what clothes look best on my body.  More importantly, I need to find my female voice, adjust my mannerisms, the way I move, the way I talk, the way I hold myself.  I need to find my confidence in those things.  Taking my time gives me the opportunity to work on those things while my body does its own changing.

I’m the type of girl that can be happy with seeing positive change…as long as I feel I am moving towards my end goal then I am happy.  Right now it is weight loss, down 27lbs as of this morning, and I continue to average 2-3 lbs a week, which I am more than happy with.  My eating habits have changed, and I’m not starving myself.  I no longer eat like a man, but we also established yesterday that I used to eat that way to also cover for my depression, which I have moved beyond by accepting I am female.

So where am I an emotional mess?  I’m getting to that, this is my blog and I am free to go where I will.  Some know that I am quite active on Twitter, and as such I talk to many girls, all at different stages and with different experiences.  I have been lucky to find a couple who have really taken me under their wing, and their positivity truly can boost my spirits and stop dysphoria in its tracks.  Friday was such a day, where a conversation with another gal threatened to take me to a dark place, but when I reached out to my fairy godmother, as I call her, she came back with just the right things I needed to hear, and the day ended on a positive note.  I can’t stress enough to girls starting out how important community is to us.  This is rough enough as is, but to do it alone…as confident as I can seem, I’d be a complete mess, and so I am thankful I have found friends and support at home and on the internet.

Saturday night my wife got upset with me when she found I had been shaving certain parts of my body, and I hadn’t told her.  I didn’t think it was a big deal, but I had agreed to share everything with her.  It left me feeling horrible, but a friend chatted with me for almost two hours late into the night, and the next day I awoke to apologize to my wife.  I did not apologize for shaving, but for the not sharing.  If we are going to find a new place in our marriage, then she has to feel a part of my transition, and that I am a better person for it.

Sunday, my wife and I were driving home from an event, and feeling emotional I told her that I constantly fear that the next step I take, the next thing I do might be the thing that weirds her out, or drives her away.  She said she understood, but not much else.  She knew I was starting to express in little ways, my feminine side, and that I wanted to switch out my underwear as a next step, but I needed to tell her it was happening.  She had seemed ok with it, but I had to tell her it would be this week, and so I dove in and told her.  I even hedged around saying I’d keep my guy underwear for the kids sake, and sleep in that.  She just looked at me, shook her head, and said, “That’s stupid, just put on a pair of shorts when you come to bed.”  Her matter-of-factness sent a message that maybe she’s accepting this faster than I thought.  My wife isn’t a talker when it comes to her feelings, that’s my department, but I know she has them, and I know she loves me.  It’s amazing how such a simple acceptance of my expression can give me greater confidence for the next thing I’ll want to do.

Monday’s therapy session brought more emotion out, as my therapist when talking about coming out to my parents asked a question that got me to begin to lose it regarding my father, and I’m not going there, don’t want to start blubbering again.  Yes, I started to lose it…and if I had let myself it would have been bad, but I was able to reign it in so I could keep talking.  I’ve also touched upon this thought in another blog post, but what I haven’t touched upon is how much of girl I’ve always been in my desire to please, especially my parents.  I haven’t always shown it, but I know in some ways my transition is going to hurt them, and it is the last thing I want to do, to hurt my parents, but I also can no longer hurt myself for the sake of others.  This is the truth of all of us who are transgender, and the emotions that go with it are no joke.

Therapy did end on a high note for me, as my therapist did agree that she didn’t see why I couldn’t be on HRT by my birthday less than two months away.  That, made my day.  I also almost forgot, but I have lined up a hormone doctor and a new primary care doctor, both who specialize in trans patients.  I already have my appointment to get my levels checked for HRT, so that when I go to my hormone doctor I could get my prescriptions on day one, which has me so excited!

The affirmation of others around me only serves to give confidence that I am female, as for so long I worried I was a fraud or a fake.  I know I am not, but emotions can be fucked up, and dysphoria meddling with them can make them even worse.  As I was writing this, I got a tweet that might be the sweetest thing anyone has said to me, and definitely the sweetest since I started my transition.  Talking about my timetable I had told my friend how bad I wanted to just jump in with both feet, and she came back with this:

Oh Allie I do know how much you want it, never questioned that.  Just wow:  your kindness towards others and “skill” at helping them forward.”

Chrissy,  if you read this…I love you right back!  And, yes, her words made me cry, but just a little, and I’ll never turn down happy tears.  To think that others might see me this way as I’m just starting out…I don’t know if I have the words to express what it means, other than my heart just feels full right now.  It’s a feeling I want to hold onto, and this is a post I can definitely come back to when times get tough, because I know they will.

As I close on this, I’m left wondering if my emotions are really on the edge, or if they simply are finally beginning to emerge as they’re supposed to be.  My biggest hope, early on, is gaining the ability to emote freely, once more.  The past few days have given me some ups and downs, but I’ve come through it feeling even more positive about the future.

I wanted to share some words from my “fairy godmother” that make me smile with happy tears as I’m about to write them.  It got me through the other day, and I’m sharing them because I think they can apply to others.

She wrote to me:

“We make what we make of this experience.  Work hard, give grace, forgive…you know all that…I feel that positivity in you.”

“And the other thing is to temper the pace of the transition and build the patience necessary.  We all know what haste does.”

“All the *small* victories are actually massive.  Celebrate all of them.  ALL OF THEM”

“When the big milestones happen you will have enough rocket fuel to last a year!”

The rest of what she wrote is more personal and for me…but I am so thankful for her, and she knows it.  She is the one who first said what I needed to hear that allowed me to believe I could transition…and she didn’t even know it at the time.

Anyways, I think I’m gonna end here, because I’ve got a lump in my throat, and my eyes have started to slightly leak, but I’m owning that feeling because it also has a smile on my face which I intend to savor.

Oh, and I changed my music video…an old 80’s song that always makes me happy…because that’s where I’m at right now.  Much love to you all!

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

Facts-1Ok, being a little cheeky with the title this time around.  I’m actually feeling pretty good as I write this, but was feeling pretty shitty this morning…Dysphoria…it’s a BITCH!!!

Since my last post some good things have happened.  First, my wife and I had a nice date on Saturday, and we had a good conversation.  She was good with me beginning to express a little more…just baby steps…but I don’t want to hide things like painting my toes or wearing pretty undies…that said I did say I’d be discreet as my kids don’t know I’m trans yet, but do my kids really need to know what underwear I’m wearing?

I also coached my daughter’s soccer team to a 10-1 victory on Saturday.  She is probably the best player on her team (one boy is close) which always makes a parent glow.  She scored 4 goals and had 4 killer saves in goal.  Don’t know where her aggression and competitive spirit came from, but it is definitely there this year.

The rest of the weekend was just about relaxing and not doing much of anything, which is never a bad thing.  Yesterday, my daughter wanted to paint my toes (Yes, please!) and so now I’m rocking a bright pink, and it just felt right.  That coupled with some body hair removal and new underwear left me feeling pretty content as the holiday weekend came to a close.

Today, did not start out so well, because my dysphoria demon decided to pay me a visit when I looked in the mirror this morning.  It piled on more when I stepped on the scale by saying I’ll never get my weight down to where I want it to be, so why even bother, and so I spent the morning doing battle with myself, but the afternoon sent the demon packing.

I made contact with a gender specialist I intend to see for HRT, once I have my therapist letter.  Dr. Lowell will be the first doctor in Atlanta to open a practice specializing in serving transgender patients and their needs.  While she is not an endocrinologist, she has already worked with Emory University to establish a gender clinic, and her practice will also service transgender people throughout the southeast.  Her dedication to the transgender population and herself being a member of the LGBT community goes a long way with me.  Her practice won’t be up and running fully until October (not taking insurance yet), but she took the time to email back and forth with me today, and we’ve come up with a plan that could see me start HRT by my birthday, and that has me very happy right now.  She seemed very down to earth, and I just got warm vibes from our email conversation.  I’m looking forward to meeting her, but that also means I need to step up my weight loss…I’m about halfway to where I minimally want to be when I start HRT, and it is realistic to think I can get there with a little dedication.

All of this makes me wonder where I will be at this time next year.  I mean, I can’t even begin to picture what will happen.  Will the changes be big, minimal, somewhere in between?  How will the kids take it?  How will the wife react to said changes?  I mean I could go on and on with the questions.  I know there will be ups and downs throughout that year, but I’m trying to approach the future with hope and optimism.  I’m excited to see where 2018 takes me.  It’s a very real possibility that I could be living full time as Allie before I turn 45, and that thought almost takes my breath away…to finally be myself all the time?  I don’t know if I have the words yet to describe the enormity of that in my mind.  I’m sure as time goes by I will be able to do so a little bit at time, and I think that is also a good reason to keep this journal going.

Anyways, right now I’m going to ride the high I’m feeling, because I know tomorrow could take me down again, but for now I’m not going to think about it.  Instead, I will choose to live in the now and enjoy the feelings I’m currently experiencing.  Right now, at this very moment, it feels pretty good to be me.


Depression? What Depression?

keep-calm-and-man-up-5Leaving my therapist on Monday I was struck by the thought that I had inadvertently lied when answering one of her questions.  The lie was unintentional, and in the moment I had come to believe the lie so well that I believed I was telling her the truth.

She asked me if I had ever been depressed or suffered from depression.  She also included the typical signs of what my man suit would consider the calling cards of depression: suicidal, substance abuse problems, the inability to function, etc.  My answer, was,  “No, I don’t really get depressed.  Sometimes I might get the blahs, or feel a little down, but not depressed.”  In my answer, I had dropped Allie, and put back on the man suit to “Man Up” and downplay any suffering that I’ve endured in my life.

For all I know, she saw right through it.  I mean, she is good at what she does, and I’m sure I’m not the first girl in a man suit to sit down on her couch and downplay a personal struggle.  After all, boys are taught from a young age to toughen up, man up, rub some dirt on it, and carry on.  Men wear their scars with pride, and love to talk about how they earned them.  I’ve participated in such discussions on more than one occasion.  However, what men are taught about mental wounds and scars is a far different thing…You don’t talk about them…ever.  You downplay them, or as my father likes to joke, “Karate men cry on the inside.”

I took those lessons to heart as a child, and by the age of twenty I had learned to lock those feelings down tight.  Crying was to be fought at all costs, and if you got choked up, swallow that shit back down.  Even to this day, I find it very hard to cry.  I get choked up, I can want to cry, feel the need to, but a painful lump in the throat and a few tears is often all that I get to come out.  This is definitely an area I need help in.

As for mental health/depression?  Well, I definitely have depression, I just have never thought of it that way, but upon further reflection I have come to understand how mine presents, and there is no doubt it is real.

Let me be clear, I don’t have the kind of depression that leaves me incapable of action, or with thoughts of suicide.  I’ve never been addicted to substances, other than cigarettes (quit 5 years ago), and while I did dabble with drugs, it was purely recreational, and it’s been over 18 years since I last used.

My depression is more subtle, and I always thought of the way I dealt with it as a badge of honor.  I hit a major pocket of it at the beginning of the summer, and my wife would tell you that “I was there but I wasn’t there” all summer, as I hid away in my office at home.  Being alone is one major way in which I deal with depression.  Sitting here, I realize that I may still be suffering from it to some degree.  Many of the things I enjoy doing saw me lose interest this summer.  I just stopped caring if I did them.  This isn’t the first time this kind of behavior has come up, but just the most recent and best example.  I have often thought, “well, I just need alone time, at least I’m not depressed!”  No, bitch, you are depressed big time, and obviously this summer’s depression walked hand in hand with the realization and acceptance that I was transgender.

Wait!  You mean you weren’t excited to realize who you really are?  No, I was scared shitless!  Sure, I had moments where I’d start to daydream about how my life could change, but when you only come to realize who you are after forty years?  You can’t help but think about how much time you’ve missed, how hard it will be to transition, and what you might lose in the process?  It would take one cold mother fucker to not be scared.  Accepting and embracing my femininity requires me to be honest with myself in all things.  My man suit would never admit being scared, but the real me?  She’s still scared, and I don’t know when that fear will entirely go away.  I also don’t think it is entirely a bad thing to have a little fear along for the ride.

This summer’s depression was the result of the little girl in me crying about what all the changes that would have to occur might mean.  Would I ever pass?   Would I ever be able to find a female voice?  Would I lose my wife, my family, and my friends?  What will happen with my job?  How will I pay for surgeries?  My mind ran away with me, and started focusing on things that are months, if not years off in the future.  These things began to depress me, and having my father in law in my house still does.  I want to start to express, to feel free to talk, but I always have to keep an eye out for where he’s at.  Some would say, “Do it anyways!”  While, that’s a great sentiment, in many ways as I’ve already suggested, I’m a little girl.  I am uncertain, afraid of how I will be perceived, and how any changes, regardless of how subtle will be received by my wife.  As for my father in law, well his presence simply heightens my dysphoria as it reminds me that I constantly have to be “On”, and that I can never let down my mask.  It’s exhausting and depressing.

I haven’t even talked about my life-long way of coping with depression/dysphoria (I see them hand in hand), which is obsessing on hobbies by spending lots of money on said hobbies.  Whether it’s needing a GoPro to film and edit my backpacking adventures, or the nine pairs of soccer cleats (can’t wear heels!) I’ve purchased in the last two years…this is a behavior that has been around in me forever.  Talking with other girls, I know what it is now, because many have similar stories of doing anything they could to distract from the feelings they had inside them.  I was doing this as well, and I have spent probably close to $20,000 over the years to keep trying to fill the hole in my soul, but nothing has ever been able to do so.

My first memories of this behavior was taking money from my dad to buy Dungeons and Dragons books.  Dungeons and Dragons was great, I could throw myself into the worlds, and role-playing was a way to ignore the storm inside of me.  Eventually, I would give up gaming for other hobbies such as video games, backpacking, writing, yoga, soccer, etc.  With each new hobby came the need for things I just had to have.  Fighting my inner female meant that I had to throw money at her, and for brief periods I would think I was ok, but then a new obsession would emerge and the cycle would repeat itself, until this summer.

This summer, I broke the cycle, because this summer I accepted who I am as a woman.  With no more misdirection, I couldn’t sink money into my depression, and so instead I withdrew, letting the anxiety and anger build until I finally started to share who I really was.  Sharing helped to alleviate and make me more aware of the my poor behaviors.  However, I’m also a work in progress, and I’m not entirely out of the woods yet.

My therapist convinced me to join her support group sessions, and I will attend my first tonight.  Aside from meeting others in my area, I also see it as a chance to be myself around others without fear of judgement, or being made fun of.  I’m not there with my wife yet, and it may be some time before I’m comfortable.  She knows I’m dealing, but I don’t think she is capable of seeing Allie yet.  Don’t get me wrong, she is handling this better than most wives from what I understand, but I haven’t changed much at home yet.  I have gotten a couple little comments which I feel further confirms she’s not seeing the real me, but I also admit I could be overly sensitive about things right now.  The reality is I don’t think my wife will be able to accept until I feel ready to begin physically presenting, which will mean several months of HRT.  I also can admit to myself that with issues currently facing my son right now, it is real easy for me to simply sit in dad mode.  My needs are important, but I’m a parent and can’t help but put my kid first.

I also accept that a little of my depression may be from unrealistic expectations.  I’ve shared with my wife that I may want to fully transition, that I have a female inside of me, but aside from an offer to talk if I want to, she has shown zero desire to engage on the issue, although we may go out and talk on Saturday night.  She hasn’t gotten the message that I think more like her than a man.  When she continues to speak to me, or to react to things as if I am a man, all I can do is sigh on the inside, and try and understand that it will take time.  My desire was that she would start to try and engage with me on a more female level, but realistically, can I expect that to happen overnight?  I have played the part of husband for eighteen years, and I’ve known her even longer than that.  Just as my process is my own, she has a right to hers as well.

My urge to spend money has dwindled to almost nothing at the moment, unless it has to do with transition.  I’m not interested in my hobbies right now, but I’m also not looking to find a new one either.  Accepting who I am, has finally forced me to stop running from my truth, and without the need to run, the need for new hobbies has also gone away.

Accepting that I have suffered from depression throughout my life is a big deal for me.  I have no more reasons to “Man Up” and power through.  It’s OK to admit I need help, and to ask for that help.  It’s even better to see my depression for what it is, and to begin to work on those parts of me that will help to make it go away.  I’m not saying I won’t ever be depressed again.  I’m almost certain with transition and dysphoria that there will definitely be moments of depression in my future.  However, I can deal with that knowledge, because I can now see that what I’m entering isn’t a cave, but rather a tunnel, and there is light on the other side of that tunnel.  I have to go through darkness to get there, but with help and one foot in front of the other I will emerge on the other side.

My Red Pill

RedPill_hand-300x225Yesterday was another turning point in my life, and perhaps one of the most significant yet.  I didn’t get what I thought I wanted going into my first gender therapy appointment (a letter for HRT), but I walked away with further self awareness, feeling good with how the session went, and happy with my choice of therapist.  I also walked away far more emotional than I thought I would, and so I spent a good portion of the afternoon working through those feelings and why they came on so strong.

I woke up excited about therapy, and excited at the prospect of finally beginning to officially move forward.  Now, I know that I have been making inroads, and having revelations on my own, so please don’t think I’m not aware that I’ve been moving forward this entire time.  Every day I wake up and accept that I am a trans woman is a step forward, especially on those days that dysphoria is minimal and thoughts creep into my head about how I am “o.k.” with being a man.  That alone is a significant realization for me.  The fact that I can admit on a “good” day I’m not good or great with being male, but just “o.k.”  It will never get better than that, no matter what I do, staying in my man suit will at best give me moments of o.k.  At worst?  Well, I don’t want to think about that because dysphoria has become my constant companion, always there in the back ground waiting to jump out and startle me,  or waiting to jump out and shock me to my core.  It’s a shitty way to live my life, and one I am determined to change.

I found myself in the waiting room of the therapist for about fifteen minutes, and I was far more nervous than I thought I would be.  It was like the feeling you get when you go on a first date with someone you really think you like.  My therapist finally came out, introduced herself and we went back into her office to talk.  One of the things that struck me about her was her immediate acceptance, warmth, and affirmation of who I am.

As someone who has lived a life based in fear, her office was a safe place where I, Allie, could be honest with myself and begin to admit out loud who I was, and where I need to go.  I admit, I rambled about my past quite a bit, which I know is probably normal for most girls as we begin to peel back the layers of male masking that we’ve built up over the years.  I’ve built my life around others’ expectations of who they  thought I was, or who I thought they wanted me to be.  I admitted that I simply learned to mimic my father’s mannerisms and male behaviors, but they were never really mine.  My father is typically liked by most that meet him, a successful business man, now retired.  He was my ideal of what I thought a man should be, and even as I write this I fight back tears as I think how the revelation of who I really am is going to hit him.

See, in my man suit, I’m the guy who takes care of his shit.  I’m the oldest, smart, highly educated, and I’ve always forged my own way, adjusted to life’s roadblocks without asking for help or bailouts, and I’ve earned my father’s respect and admiration, which is something all kids want from a parent they admire.  Now, I’m having to accept the fact that while I think he will accept and love me, because he’s my dad, and he loves his children like it’s a biological need.  There is a chance he won’t accept that I’m really a woman.  I’d like to think that he’ll listen, do his best to hide his shock, hug me, tell me he loves me, and that he wants me to be happy.  As a kid, I never felt safer than when he’d wrap me up in his arms, and to this day, his hug still brings those feelings back. The strength of his embrace, and the smell of his cologne a comfort to a child scared, afraid, or just needing comfort from her father.

I don’t mean to leave my mother out, but knowing her, she’ll be afraid for me, how the world will treat me, but she’ll accept who I am faster.  Don’t get me wrong, it will be a shock to her as well, but I know her well enough to know she’d never reject or stop loving me.

As to when I’ll tell them?  My therapist actually agreed with me that just as I need to see changes in my body to physically begin presenting female, so too will my parents need to see changes to accept who I really am.  If I were to tell them tomorrow, they wouldn’t be able to see it, wouldn’t be able to wrap their minds around it, and I can’t blame them.  I’ve done an excellent job of playing my part, and while I’m working to remove the man suit.  It’s still there, and it will take time to completely get it off.

As for my wife?  She is my best friend, and while we’ve had some rough patches the last few years, I don’t want to lose her, but I have to accept to become Allie, that I have to be willing to do so.  I have to be willing to accept that she may not want to be with another woman.  I can’t be mad at her for that, or blame her.  When we married 18 years ago she thought she was marrying a man.  To her credit, she has made an effort to be supportive, regardless of what she might be feeling on the inside, and knowing her I know there has to be elements of shock and fear.  She is trying to be there for me, and I love her all the more for that, knowing many wives would not be so kind, or willing to accept me for trying to be the real me.  We’ll see what the future has in store for us, but for now I’m sharing information in spurts to allow her to adjust and accept.

My kids, I don’t worry about, we’ve been through this once with my daughter, and so I know they can adjust, and that while my daughter will actually have a hard time with losing her daddy, she will also gain another person in the house who understands how she feels, and knows what she is going through.  She will always have me to talk to, to share with.  In short, she will always have someone close by that “gets it” as only another trans person can.  I’d like to think our bond will only grow stronger.  And as for my son, it may be hard at first, but he will gain a more connected, understanding, and plugged in parent.  Once again, the topic of sharing, and in this case it would have to be around the time that physical changes begin to emerge, after all, they live with me.

“HRT”  It’s like my holy grail, a beacon on the hill.  In it, I see an answer to the emptiness in my soul, and so I went after it in session with tenacity, but still I hedged my bets when being asked about it.  I told my therapist that I knew I wanted it, that I needed it, but as far as transition went I would reevaluate what I wanted after a few months.  She stopped me at that point, and looked me in the eye.  “Let’s be honest.  You already know what you want, don’t you?”  I looked at her for a moment, and then sheepishly looked down at my hands in my lap before speaking.  “Honestly?  Yeah, I guess if I take it all the way, I see myself transitioning fully.”  Wow!  Did I just say that out loud to another person?  She just called me on my shit, and I was honest with her.  This might have been the emotional moment of the session, my breakthrough.  I had admitted it online, or in my head, or when alone, but never to another without the hedging of “we’ll see in a few months.”

We ended with scheduling another appointment in two weeks time.  I could have scheduled one next week, but she isn’t cheap ($150).  I’m ok with that as she is regarded as one of the top gender therapists, and I don’t need someone who will rubber stamp my assertions.  I came away impressed, and really liking her.  She told me she usually won’t give out HRT letters until after 3-4 sessions, and I guess that makes sense if she really wants to be certain.  I know who I am, but admit I will benefit from our sessions moving forward.  She has also asked me to attend the group sessions she facilitates on Thursday nights, and I will make the effort to show up, as I could benefit from getting to know others in my area, and to talk about what I am going through in a face to face setting.

Everyday there is something new or different that goes through my mind.  Emotions, realizations, and acceptance of certain facts come daily.  An honest person can admit when she can’t deal with it all on her own.  Yes, that’s the other realization, my brain often is now defaulting to thinking of myself as a female.  Instead of thinking, “women do this,” I think, “other women do this.”  It might seem a little thing, but the realization of it was huge, and just as my therapist brought a smile to my face by calling me Allie, the first time I thought “other women” brought just as big a smile to my face.  Moving forward I know there will be ups and downs, but yesterday was a good day that I want to remember.

New video:  Still on my Hole kick…this one I love for it’s opening verse which I have pinned on my twitter feed:

Oh, make me over
I’m all I want to be
A walking study
In demonology

Feel like it resonates with me these days…Celebrity Skin…check it out.